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Tornado and hailstorm sweep across county
A TORNADO that hit the county caused a storm of debate among experts yesterday.
The freak weather ripped tiles from houses, damaged trees and fences and forced a cinema to evacuate as it hit shortly after 4pm on Monday.
Hailstones the size of peas fell in Witney.
The storm is believed to have started in Wiltshire and moved across Oxfordshire, with a tornado reported in Witney, Eynsham, Kidlington and Bicester, and photographed by Oxford Mail readers.
Some experts yesterday said they believed the thunderstorm had been caused by an extremely rare “supercell” storm.
Brendan Jones, from weather forecasters Meteogroup, said: “There are suggestions that this thunderstorm was a special type of storm that we don’t get too often in this country. ”
But a Met Office spokesman said its experts did not believe the storm had been big enough to be classed as a supercell. Helen Chivers said: “Looking at our satellite and radar images, we believe it was simply a very large thunderstorm with a number of funnel clouds extending from the base.
“Supercells cover hundreds of miles and last for hours. But this does seem to have definitely been a tornado.”
Tornadoes are narrow, spinning columns of air which form from thunderstorm clouds and touch the ground.
About 30 are reported each year in the UK, although they are usually too weak to cause any damage.
Kyle Robertshaw, 14, enjoyed trying to catch as many hailstones as he could when he was caught in the storm in Witney. Kyle, a pupil at Bartholomew School, Eynsham, who lives in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, said: “The hailstones were as big as garden peas. It’s not what you expect to see in May.”
Vicki Lee, 38, from Kidlington and her five-year-old daughter Katie were at home when they saw it approach.
She said: “Everything was swirling, gravel, plants, you couldn’t tell what was stone and what wasn’t. We went to the kitchen at the back and then a big bit of the roof just came off and smashed into our patio furniture.
“The rabbit, Flopsy, and his hutch were thrown down to the bottom of the garden. Luckily he was fine. But it has caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.”
She added: “Katie just looked at me and said ‘Mum. It’s like the Wizard of Oz’.”
Richard Glazer, 40, drove through the tornado on the A34 near Kidlington.
He said: “You suddenly realise the force of nature, it’s incredible.”
There were no reports of any injuries.